France unveils UN fund for ISIS victims

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Laurent Fabius, Minister for Foreign Affairs of France and President of the Security Council for the month of March, briefs journalists on Friday’s Security Council open debate on the victims of attacks and abuses on ethnic or religious grounds in the Middle East. Photo: UN
UNITED NATIONS – France has unveiled plans for a UN fund to re-build houses, schools and churches and re-settle Yezidis and other minority religious groups who have been forced to flee their homes in fear of advancing Islamic State (ISIS) militants.

Speaking outside the UN Security Council in New York, France’s Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius warned of a “real danger that minorities in the Middle East will entirely disappear” and called for greater support to Kurds, Yezidis, Chaldeans and other minorities.

“We want to turn the tide. Our focus must now be the return of minorities to land from which they have been driven,” Fabius told journalists on Friday, while calling on the UN’s refugee agency, UNHCR, to take the lead.

“The UN agencies, especially UNHCR, have a key role to play and in concrete terms France proposes setting up a specific fund under the aegis of the UN to assist returning refugees which would be used to rebuild homes schools and places of worship.”

Some 11.4 million Syrians and more than 2.5 million Iraqis have fled their homes because of fighting by IS and other groups. Many Yezidis and other minorities headed for the relative safety of the Kurdistan Region.

UN spokesman Farhan Haq told Rudaw that aid workers were assisting refugees in Iraq and that UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon would examine France’s proposal for a fund to help victims of ISIS, which is also known as Daesh.

“Ban Ki-moon made very clear his concerns about the treatment of ethnic minorities by Daesh and we will do our best to see how we can help rebuild the lives of those people who have been affected by their atrocities,” he said.

“As for any facts on the fund, I don’t know how far along we are with setting that up.”

Hundreds of Yezidis and Christians were killed and thousands displaced as ISIS militants overran the city of Mosul and the nearby towns last summer.

Hundreds of thousands fled to the Kurdistan Region, where they live in camps alongside other ethnic and religious minorities as well Sunni Muslims displaced by the jihadists. The Peshmerga have been regaining ground in north Iraq in recent months, backed by coalition airstrikes.

On Friday, Vian Dakhil, an Erbil-based Yezidi politician, and Patriarch Louis Raphael I Sako, from the Chaldean religious minority, told the UN Security Council of an IS brutal campaign of rape, murder, forced marriages and enslavement.

“Kurdish forces are fighting valiantly to defend their homes and push back the extremist threat,” Israel’s ambassador to the UN, Ron Prosor, told the 15-nation body during the debate on persecuted religious minorities.

“The Kurds are the leading force in the fight against ISIS. They have shown tremendous courage and fortitude. The Kurds need the support of the international community and they deserve political independence.”

Valerie Amos, the UN’s undersecretary-general for humanitarian affairs, announced plans to attend a pledging conference for Syria that is being held in Kuwait on March 31 to “rally vital international financial support”, the UN said in a statement.

“Civilians continue to bear the brunt of this conflict,” Amos said this week. “Indiscriminate aerial bombings, including the use of barrel bombs, car bombs, mortar attacks, unguided rockets and the use of other explosive devices in populated areas, are the hallmarks of this conflict.”